Fear Not! You can handle change!

This is the fourth and final blog in our series on project management. The first in the series, titled, “ Project Management 101: The Four Components of Project Management”  provides a general overview of project management. The second installment, “Project Management 102: The Four Benefits of a Well-Defined Charter” addresses why all project plans should begin with a Charter. The third blog, “Project Management 103: Six Keys for Effective Risk Management” discusses how to substantially decrease project risks. This capstone blog in the series will build on the content of the previous installments.  

What scares you about change? We know that change isn’t easy and some people avoid it at all costs. Change can be uncomfortable because we don’t know for certain how it will impact us, whereas we know and feel comfortable with the present, even if we don’t like it!

Most people are not ambivalent to change, they either embrace it or fear it. Those that see change as negative might feel or say:

  • What if I don’t make it across the finish line?
  • The future is overwhelming
  • There is only see one way to do things
  • They are right and everyone else is wrong
  • They aren’t looking for options to change

Those people that see change as positive might have the following reactions:

  • They look for new ways to do things
  • Solving problems is an enjoyable challenge
  • They like helping others
  • They want to utilize best practice methodologies
  • See opportunities in enhancements
  • See challenge with new regulations

Change Management is the application of the set of tools, processes, skills, and principles for managing the people side of change to achieve the required outcomes of a project or initiative. “Change is universal. Change is permanent. Be ever willing to change. For change alone leads you to success and happiness”. The world is changing every minute.

Here are some principles of change:

  • Enabled not managed
  • Aligned with performance strategies and goals
  • Building capacity is a strategic and evolutionary process
  • Requires an organizational systematic view
  • Perceived need and occurs at the emotional and not the intellectual level
  • Resistance to change is a predictable response and is expected
  • A few change management best practices account for most success
  • All change strategies are situational

Situational Awareness: Understanding the change and who is impacted. This includes characteristics of change, organizational structures, and impacts groups and individuals

Supporting Structures: Team and sponsoring structures

Strategy Analysis: Risks, resistance, and special tactics.

Now that we understand a little about change management, how do we implement change?

  • We want to create a sense of urgency: Why is the initiative important now?
  • Identify the shared vision, strategy, timing and goals: What do we believe in, what is the right time?
  • Consider the organizational culture: What is our organizational culture?
  • Communicate clearly and often: How much communication is too much?
  • Visualize the entire journey for everyone: Can everyone in the organization see the journey ahead?
  • Describe targets in a simple way: Can everyone in the organization understand the targets?
  • Deal proactively with resistance: What is the root cause of the fear?
  • Involve the entire organization: Is EVERYONE in the organization involved in the process?
  • Measure early and often: How is the project status to be reported to every one organizationally?
  • Celebrate wins and milestones: Are the smallest successes being recognized?

It is important to understand that there are 4 phases of transition. Not everyone moves through the process at the same rate or at the same time. Knowing that this is a process and takes time will help you understand where each individual is in the process.

  1. Denial: Numbness, everything as usual, focus on how good the past was
  2. Resistance: Anger, loss, hurt, blaming, illness, stubbornness
  3. Exploration: What will happen to me? Chaos, unfocused, increasing energy
  4. Commitment: Where am I headed? Focus, teamwork, vision, balance, structure

To overcome that resistance to change it is important to start with education and communication. Helping your team and organization understand why the change is needed is the first step. Negotiating with them can help their anxiety but adjusting some components or the time frame. Obtaining their participation an involvement creates a sense of team and their ownership of the change. We might need to manipulate the change to get their buy in and cooperation. It is at this point it is important that there is facilitation and support for those going through this transition. Unfortunately, there will be those that will require coercion in order to move through the process.

Change is difficult and uncomfortable and sometimes the anxiety becomes fear. Focusing on the opportunities, continuing to educate and support your organization and keeping a positive attitude will help move your organization towards acceptance. For more information about change management, visit our solution page or contact us to learn how we can assist you in your journey.


Thomas Cummings and Christopher Worley, Organizational Development and Change, South Western College Publishing

Lynn Fossum, Understanding Organizational Change, Crisp Learning Publication

Dale Carnegie Institute (dalecarnegie.com)

Project Management Institute (pmi.org)

Change Management Learning Center (change-management.com)

Stages of Grief (grief.com)

Change Management in EHR Implementation (healthit.gov)